One of the sponsors of Senate Bill 2188 (pdf), state Sen. Frank Niceley, a Republican, told The Epoch Times, “It’s one of the most important bills we’ve passed this year.”
“The bill would put it behind the counter with a consultation, which means you would explain your symptoms to the pharmacist, fill out a sheet listing your preexisting conditions and what other medication you’re on in order for the pharmacist to determine the right dosage,” Niceley said.
“Ivermectin is one of the many therapeutic options, like vaccines, monoclonal antibodies, and anti-virals, that have proven to be effective in the treatment of COVID-19,” Republican state Sen. Rusty Crowe, a co-sponsor of the bill, said in a statement. “This bill will provide for a safe and effective way for patients to quickly access ivermectin over the counter, and under the supervision of their pharmacists and the physician with whom the pharmacists have their collaborative agreement.”
Ivermectin is approved by the Food and Drug Administration as an anti-parasitic drug but isn’t authorized for treatment of COVID-19.
In 2021, ivermectin joined hydroxychloroquine as one of the controversial early treatments for COVID-19. Many medical professionals were threatened with losing or lost their medical licenses for prescribing both drugs to treat COVID-19, based on the allegation of misinformation.
“Ivermectin clearly works,” Niceley said. “We’ve had doctors in the Senate who prescribe it all the time. You’ve got to take it early. As with any disease, early treatment is better than late,” he said, adding that he took ivermectin when he tested positive for COVID-19.
Niceley said one of the reasons for the bill is to make ivermectin safer so that people aren’t getting the wrong dose, as many have resorted to purchasing the farm-grade veterinary horse de-wormer. Though some have reported positive results even from using the veterinary version of the drug, media reports focused on allegations of people overdosing and crowding emergency rooms, leading to a false report that gunshot victims were being prevented from receiving care.
“Ivermectin is safer than Tylenol,” Niceley said. “There’s no reason to not try it.”
Because the efficacy of ivermectin depends on early treatment, the bill will facilitate a person’s ability to get the drug in the early stages.
“If you have to make an appointment with a doctor and wait two weeks to get in, it’s too late for early treatment,” Niceley said.
‘Profound Propaganda to Limit Its Use’
In a March Senate Health and Welfare Committee hearing, Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance co-founder Dr. Paul Marik, who has advocated for the use of ivermectin, spoke in support of the bill.
“It’s probably one of the safest medications ever made,” Marik said. “Over 3.7 billion people have been given ivermectin for the treatment of parasitic diseases in Africa, Asia, and South America.”
More people have died from Tylenol, which is also referred to as Panadol in some parts of the world, than from ivermectin, Marik said.
“One couldn’t have asked for nature to give us a more perfect drug because it kills the virus, via a number of mechanisms, and it also has potent anti-inflammatory properties. So it really is the perfect drug for the treatment of COVID-19,” Marik said.
There has been a propaganda campaign to dismiss the drug as a toxic horse de-wormer, he said, though “it’s probably the most effective drug against SARs-CoV-2.”
“It’s an outrage that there’s been such a profound propaganda to limit its use to silence doctors who prescribe it and to limit pharmacists from dispensing it,” he said. “If we had utilized our protocol, which we had published in March 2020, it’s my belief we could have saved hundreds of thousands of lives because the key to COVID is early treatment.”
Dr. Denise Sibley, a Johnson City, Tennessee, physician who said she had adopted Marik’s and the Front Line protocols using ivermectin in treating “almost 4,400 folks,” including members of the Tennessee House and Senate, said she’s used ivermectin not only for COVID-19 symptoms in her patients but also for vaccine injuries. Unfortunately, it became difficult to obtain after “a certain letter went out” in September 2021, she said.
The Misinformation Inquisition
In July 2021, the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB), a non-profit organization, issued a statement warning that physicians “who generate and spread COVID-19 vaccine misinformation or disinformation are risking disciplinary action by state medical boards, including the suspension or revocation of their medical license.”
Medical boards such as the American Medical Association and the American Pharmacists Association followed suit.
In September 2021, the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners (TBME) adopted the FSMB’s statement.
Throughout this time, the safety and efficacy of the vaccine has also come into question, with more reports of people contracting COVID-19 after getting the jab, as well as people experiencing sometimes fatal side effects.
After the TBME issued its own warning, Tennessee state Rep. John Ragan said the board didn’t have the authority to create a new disciplinary offense without lawmakers’ approval.
The board pulled the statement from its website, but the question remained as to whether the board would continue to investigate and charge physicians. To date, there isn’t a precedent for the board upholding a policy that was not published on its website.
Ragan had told The Epoch Times that the adopted policy moved out of “the guardrails of the law” and gives the board arbitrary judgment on what misinformation is.
“I explained that if they are going to have a policy on this sometime in the future, they need to define what misinformation and disinformation are because otherwise what you have is the Inquisition,” Ragan said. “It then becomes a situation of, ‘Heresy is what I say it is, and I’ll know it when I see it kind of thing.’”
In October 2021, the Tennessee legislature passed a bill that emphasized the legislature’s role in drafting laws that establish disciplinary offenses regarding dispensing and prescribing medication for COVID-19.
Still, the stigma around the drug continued, and physicians such as Sibley reported the drug close to impossible to find.
“I’ve had patients drive four hours on a Sunday to a pharmacy that had ivermectin, so it’s very difficult to obtain,” she said. “Any increased access to ivermectin would help save lives.”
In an April 6 Senate floor discussion on the bill, Republican Sen. Richard Briggs said Marik and other “experts that we had testifying on this may be spreading more misinformation than actual information on it,” and said that, based on his research, he believes ivermectin has a placebo effect.
However, he went on to say that ivermectin must be administered within the first 48 hours “or it doesn’t work.”
Briggs’s concern, he said, is that by making ivermectin more accessible, it would show to the public that ivermectin is as effective as other drugs such as Remdesivir and monoclonal antibodies.
“We’re going to have patients on a scientifically proven ineffective drug rather than getting the treatment they need for COVID,” Briggs said.
Others who spoke in opposition to the bill, such as Democrat Sen. Jeff Yarbro, echoed Briggs’s argument, pointing to research that he said proved ivermectin is ineffective, and that what he called misinformation surrounding ivermectin had led to overdoses.
“And that’s what happens when we start relying on podcasters to tell us what drugs to take, as opposed to actually trying to follow the evidence and science,” Yarbro said, alluding to podcaster Joe Rogan who said he successfully recovered from COVID-19 with the help of ivermectin.
Republican state Sen. Janice Bowling, who said she also recovered from COVID-19 by using ivermectin, says she supports the bill.
“There’s a lot of things about the pandemic that turned out to be total lies and misinformation,” she said.
Ivermectin, in her opinion, isn’t one of them.
After being treated with it when she tested positive, she found it to be effective.
“It wasn’t a placebo,” she said.
There are many personal experiences with ivermectin that support its efficacy, she said.
“And the most important part about this is something that will be available by a person’s personal choice,” she said. “I appreciate this legislation and appreciate that ivermectin saved many lives during this ordeal.”